For all the initial dire predictions concerning the national curriculum review undertaken by Professor Ken Wiltshire and Dr Kevin Donnelly the final report delivered findings that most educationalists have acknowledged for some time, namely the current curriculum is too crowded especially for primary school years, and students with special needs and learning difficulties require additional support.
When the two-person review panel was appointed early in 2014 critics assumed the notably right wing views of Dr Donnelly would prevail over the more conditioned education specialisation of Prof Wiltshire.
Dr Donnelly was roundly regarded as a political appointee hired to convey the Abbott government's directive to realign standards and values towards a more conservative curriculum line. The review was demeaned as an exercise in political expediency.
For all the huff and bluster at the time following the review's release most commentators have acknowledged its balance and broad acceptability. The review generally confirms the reality by most leading educationalists that curriculum secularisation that has occurred progressively over decades.
Accompanying that indulgence has been the proliferation of curriculum content. Increasingly students have faced mounting subject material some of which may be of marginal significance to actual learning.
The review recommends the national curriculum should be more broadly centred based on the following key findings:
i) Overhaul the curriculum framework to better determine subject time allocations notably for the primary curriculum which has long been acknowledged as over crowded.
ii) Remove the emphasis of cross-curriculum themes involving indigenous, sustainable concepts and Asian perspectives in subjects. The love affair with applying indigenous traditional culture to mathematical calculations may have provided soft education learning options but had little practical implication for student performance in an increasingly global learning environment.
iii) Assessing best practice international school performance and its applicability for Australian teachers.
iv) Generalised learning attributes – critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical understanding and intercultural evaluation – should be more selectively applied to relevant subject content.
v) Morals, values and spirituality – including stronger recognition of Australia's Judaeo/Christian heritage – should be more strongly acknowledges in curriculum content. This is perhaps the most contentious influence Dr Donnelly may have exerted in repositioning school curriculum back to its historical antecedents rather than aligning with post-modernism ideology.
vi) More adequately addressing the learning needs of disadvantaged learners or students with learning difficulties. This curriculum aspect was highlighted within the Gonski Review so it is hardly a trend setting recommendation.
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